Venice Diary- Meeting Milan for the Weekend

Venice Diary- Meeting Milan for the Weekend

June 17, 2017 Saturday

A group of us decided to go to Milan for the weekend. So we had booked our bus tickets the week before and found an inexpensive airbnb that was a two minute walk to the famous Cathedral and could fit the seven of us. At 7am, we all took the vaporetto to the bus station, except we got off a stop early because we were concerned we would miss the bus since the vaporetto was going pretty slowly. We had to walk along the road with our suitcases in tow and the sun beating down on us, but we arrived in time to get on the bus. It left at 8:15 and we got there at 8:06. It was a four hour bus ride, but luckily it was air conditioned and I had brought some reading to do. By the time we made it to Milan, we were all ready to get off and explore. But, we still had to take the subway to the center of the city where our accommodations were. As we were waiting, Iulia decided to buy a coffee out of the coffee vending machines that seem to be everywhere in Italy. The subway arrived and we got on…except for Iulia. We called out to her to hurry on, but the doors closed and we sped away right as she started towards us. So, when we got to the stop we had to get off at, we waited around for Iulia. Finally, when she found us we all walked towards our hotel. Once we got there, we had to wait since our room wasn’t ready yet, so we went out and got some coffee and food. By the time we finished, our room was ready.It was a nice apartment-type place with a loft above the living room and kitchen. There were some problems with the place, like the handle to the bathroom door falling off, but overall it was a good place for seven college students to spend the night. \

After everyone had put their stuff down and claimed their sleeping spots, they went out to either explore or shop. My back was hurting from some mysterious illness that had plagued me the entire day and made it difficult for me to walk, so I stayed in and FaceTimed my parents. When everyone came back around 20:00, we got dressed up and went out to dinner. We walked to a restaurant about 15 minutes away from us called Salsamenteria di Parma. Because there were so many of us, we were seated downstairs at a long table. What they are known for however, is serving wine in a bowl. So, I and a couple other girls had Lambrusco in a bowl with our meal. I ordered eggplant parmesan which was good but too much for me to finish. After dinner, we sat around the Cathedral, which was beautifully lit up, and listened to some street musicians play. By that point, I was tired after the long day so most of us went back to the room, while a couple girls decided to try to find a club to go to. We all ended up going to sleep around 1am.

June 18, 2017 Sunday

We woke up around 8am so that we could make it to the Cathedral before we had to check out. It is the largest church in Italy (since the Vatican is in the state of Vatican City) and the third largest in the world. There is a very strict dress code to get in, and some girls had to go and buy a shawl for about 2 euro from the shop where they sell the tickets to enter. Luckily, my outfit was appropriate so I was able to right in after I bought my ticket. There is security that checks your ticket and belongings before you go in, but after that you get to enter this gorgeous church. It was so open and elaborate, although nothing like the outside facade. There were lovely stained glass windows, tombs to dead bishops, and a list of all the bishops that had presided over the church for the past 1,000 or so years. Because it was a Sunday, there was a Mass at 9:00, which we unfortunately could not stay for because we had to check out of our hotel. So we left the Duomo di Milano to do that.

We were able to leave our luggage for the day, so after we checked out we went to the Castello Sforzesco just to look around. It was really nice to see, and if you walk through it, there is a park right behind it. We spent a lot of the day at Sempione Park. We split off and walked through it on our own. Everything was so green and alive. There were tons of flowers, some ducks in a pond, and people playing sports in the grass. Plus, it was a gorgeous day, sunny and hot. I really enjoyed just looking around at the beauty of nature. Eventually we met up at the Napoleon arch where we took some photos. As we were walking back through the park, we stopped to get some refreshments. I got pineapple juice which was delicious and refreshing. We sat in the grass in the shade and just chatted for about half an hour. It was a really enjoyable moment.

We made our way back to the Cathedral area where we again split off, and I went shopping with some friends. I didn’t buy much, but it was fun just to look at all the shops and see what was inside. By the time dinner time rolled around, I was so tired. We met up at a nice restaurant on a busy side street and all shared some meats, cheeses, and bread for dinner. With some wine of course. After we had finished our meal, we had to hurry to make it back to the bus station on time. (Can you see the trend in our inability to be on time?) Luckily we did make it to the bus, after a heated and packed subway ride. Unfortunately, this bus was not air conditioned and the ride back seemed much longer than the ride there. But make it back we did, and with memories that will last a lifetime.

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These are the (slightly eaten) sauces we had to dip our bread into with our meal

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The famous bowl of Lambrusco

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Ciao for now!

 

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Venice Week 2: Jewish Ghetto, Palaces, & Lido Beach Day

Venice Week 2: Jewish Ghetto, Palaces, & Lido Beach Day

I’ve decided to write about my experiences week by week instead of day by day because I wanted to really enjoy my time in Venice without the pressure to sit down and describe every aspect of it. I’m still going to describe what I did each day, just in a more limited fashion with a few photos here and there. So, without further ado, week 2…

June 14, 2017 Wednesday

As usual I had class in the morning from 9am to 12pm, and then spent some time hanging out before going into the city. It was a cloudy and rainy day, but I am only in Venice for a limited time so I have to make the most of it. A group of people from my class thought it would be interesting to tour the Jewish ghetto. I was going o join a little later along with my two roommates. We were supposed to meet them around 3pm, but because of the weather and the slow vaporetto system, we did not end up getting there in time to join the tour. It was incredibly humid out, so we decided to cool down and take a bathroom break inside a nearby restaurant. We bought some water to rehydrate, and as I was waiting outside for the other two girls, I saw a tour go by with some familiar faces in the group. It just happened to be our friends who had arrived before us, and they were taking the tour. We tagged along near the back of the crowd for a bit, but we couldn’t follow them inside some of the synagogues because we hadn’t actually paid to be on the tour. So, we said see you later and made a plan to meet up with them in half an hour for dinner.

While waiting for them, the three of us walked around the little shops and tried to learn some of the history of the ghetto. When we found the others again, we walked to a nice little restaurant called Gam Gam Kosher Restaurant, and we ordered a bunch of different foods to share. Luckily for us, it started raining while we were eating and was finished by the time we were ready to leave. We explored a little bit more that day, but then headed back to San Servolo for an early night and to catch up on some reading.

June 15, 2017 Thursday

Again, I started the day off with class. Since it was Thursday, we watched a movie called “Don’t Look Now” which was kind of haunting and scary, but still pretty cool to watch. It was a hot and sunny day, so after class some of us girls wanted to go to the beach. We took a vaporetto to Lido laden down with our bags filled with bathing suits, towels, and sunscreen. Once at Lido, we walked to the end of the island to the free beach because who wants to pay for a day at the beach? Along the way, we stopped into a little cafe/ grocery store for some food supplies. I bought a spinach stuffed pizza thing (great description, I know), and we all bought a large liter of Orange soda and water to drink on the beach. Once we were actually at the beach, we changed into our bathing suits and proceeded to spread out the orange tapestry that Iulia had bought from a beach peddler. We took turns going into the water, making sure someone was always with our stuff. The beach was crowded and it was later in the day, but it sure was fun and relaxing to be on a beach in Italy. But because it was later  (around 17:00) and it had been so hot all day, the water was actually pretty warm. It was still nice to go in and swim, it just wasn’t the refreshing cool water that it normally is. When it was my turn to stay with our belongings, I took out my packet of Proust and proceeded to read. There was a slight breeze that turned the pages and pushed my hair into my eyes, and it was pure perfection to be reading on this beach.

We left around 18:00, and walked along the sidewalk to a restaurant we had been to before. We sat outside under the canopy and the waiter had to push two tables together to accommodate the five of us. We took a look at the menu, and I decided to try the spaghetti alla vongole (spaghetti with clams). It is one of my favorite dishes and I was not disappointed with my meal choice. It tasted delicious and I devoured all of it. Obviously we all had a glass of wine with the meal, and I chose Prosecco which I thought went well with my pasta. We ended our meal with some gelato and then walked back to wait for the vaporetto.

June 16, 2017 Friday

Since we don’t have class on Fridays, a group of us decided to visit the Ducal Palace in St. Mark’s Square. It is something we had passed for two weeks now without ever going inside. So, we bought tickets online beforehand (which I recommend doing because the lines to buy tickets there are so long, and it saves a lot of time) and headed over around noon. To start with, the courtyard inside is big and beautiful and you can see the design of the building as a whole. It is quite a nice sight to see. There are curved arches, marble statues, and elaborate architecture. Inside the actual palace is even better. The ceilings are covered with breathtaking artwork and carvings, the rooms are massive and filled with historical and incredible paintings, and the sheer size of it all is almost overwhelming. I could have spent hours in one room in particular, I think it was the ball room, since it was huge and along all the walls and the ceiling were masterpieces of artwork.

I took a stroll down to the dungeons, and along the way there was this neat window that looked out into the canal. I felt kind of sorry for the prisoners who were kept in these dungeons because they were essentially at or under the canal level, so it was damp and dingy. I’m sure some of them probably deserved to be down there, don’t get me wrong, but the conditions were dark, damp, and depressing. Not somewhere I would want to live, but it was pretty neat to visit. I would definitely recommend taking a day to explore this magnificent and dominating building if you’re in Venice.

Ciao for now!

Venice Day 10: Pasta Dinners and Night Time Strolls

Venice Day 10: Pasta Dinners and Night Time Strolls

June 13, 2017 Tuesday

I woke up late around 8:20 and hurriedly got ready for the day. I walked to breakfast alone and had my usual meal. When I got to the restaurant, I didn’t see anyone I knew so I initially sat alone. But about two minutes later I looked up and through the glass of the window I saw Iulia and Adriana who I subsequently went to join. I ate for another five minutes before we rushed to class where the discussion was on Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. During the 15 minute break, I walked down to the cafe and ordered an espresso then joined some of the others at a table to chat.

After class some people went off to have their own adventures. I and some others stayed on San Servolo for some much needed rest and to get a lot of work done. The plan was to meet up with essentially everyone in our class later on in the night and get dinner and drinks together. It’s nice because the rest of the week we’re usually all off in separate groups doing our own things.

Around eight o’clock, we took the vaporetto into the main city and made our way to Dosoduro. It was a nice walk under the clear sky that was slowly beginning to darken. At the restaurant (I wish I could remember the name of it because it was great), we met up with some of the kids from the other class and proceeded to order our classic Italian food. The portions were pretty big, so one of my friends and I decided to split the pasta with fish, and the staff were kind of enough to bring it out to us in two separate bowls. It was a fantastic meal with great food and lots of laughter. We sat outside and it was beautiful to look around at the restaurant at dusk. As is the custom, the waiters came around to ask if anyone would like any coffee or dessert. I and some others ordered espressos. One of my favorite moments of the night was when the waiter brought out the espressos on a tray, and when he went to place it down in front of the guy across from me, he pretended to spill the espresso all over him. We all laughed hysterically when we saw that the cup was empty and attached to a string. That was in essence the way we had been treated all night by the staff; they were genial, accommodating, and overall almost like friends. When we left, they waved us off and offered us some candy for the road.

We then headed to the Rialto area where we took in the view from the bridge at night. When we decided to go back, some of us stopped in Piazza San Marco to wait for the next vaporetto in a scene of beauty. We sat on the steps talking, laughing, and viewing the activity of San Marco’s at night until it was time to go back.

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Ciao for now!

Venice Day 8- Verona, Castel Vecchio, & Visiting Juliet

Venice Day 8- Verona, Castel Vecchio, & Visiting Juliet

June 11, 2017 Sunday

Sunday was the day that we all decided to take a trip to Verona. In order to make the most out of our time there, since we decided on only a day trip, we booked one of the earliest trains there. So, I woke up at 6:30 am, got dressed and ready, and packed my bag with everything I would need for the trip (money, wallet, passport in case I needed ID, camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, chapstick, and some other random bits and bobs). The first vaporetto of the day left at 7:10, and at 7:05 one of my roommates and I were sprinting towards the stop to make it on time. Once on the vaporetto to the San Marco stop, we met up with the other six girls going with us. We were the only people on the boat other than a woman with her suitcase (most likely going to the airport) since it was so early.

When we arrived at the San Marco vaporetto stop, we had to go to another stop in order to take a different vaporetto to the train station (the vaporetto in Venice are like buses in major cities, with certain ones going to specific places in the city). We arrived at the train station around 7:50 and since none of us had eaten any breakfast yet, we stopped into a cafe in the station (after we had located our train of course). I ate a blueberry muffin with a small cappuccino (I know, I know you’re all shocked that I didn’t order an espresso. Sometimes a girl has to change it up a bit). We got on the train in groups as we got our food, and managed to find 8 seats together. About three minutes before the train was supposed to leave, two girls from our group were still not on board. We started to get concerned when, like out of a movie, they walked down the aisle towards us just as the train was leaving the station. Apparently one of them had spilled her coffee and the cafe had kindly replaced it for her, but it was a close call.

During the hour and a half train ride from Venice to Verona, we talked in our respective groups of four and admired the view of the countryside outside the window. When we arrived in Verona, we were met at the station by Francesca’s friend, Joan, who was there taking a class. She showed us which bus to take from the station to get to our first destination: The Colosseum. When we stepped off the bus, we were greeted by this beautiful fountain surrounded by lush green grass and sweltering heat. Maggie had Rick Steve’s guidebook from which she gave us interesting facts throughout the day about the various places we visited. At the Colosseum, only a few of us went inside of it while the others waited outside (you had to pay to go in). The “inside” was really a bunch of amphitheater seats in the open air, but it was amazing to see. On the stage there were men setting up a set for an upcoming performance that I think was going to take place there. Even though it was only 10:30 am, it was brutally hot, so I sat down and put on some sunscreen. Then I took pictures along with some of my friends.

After the Colosseum, we met up with the others and made our way to Centro Storico. Along the way we stopped into some of the stores lining the street. Six of us decided to buy some macaroons at a little French pastry shop, then we looked into a perfume store, and finally we made it to Centro Storico. Here, we followed the signs to the house of Juliet (from Romeo and Juliet) and went into the famous courtyard. It was packed with people. There was a mob of people trying to take a picture holding the breast of the Juliet statue because apparently this is good luck in love (I mean Juliet didn’t seem to have too much luck in love considering both she and her lover died, but I guess it’s the myth of Juliet). Naturally we had to partake in this tradition as well. Then, a couple of the girls decided to go up to Juliet’s balcony and take some pictures there, so while they did that I went into the gift shop and bought some postcards as souvenirs.

When we finally left the mass of people in Juliet’s courtyard, we made our way down to Joan’s apartment building where we met up with a couple of her friends. Then we split into two groups of about five people each to get lunch since we all wanted to eat at different places. The place my group went to, Osteria del Bugiardo, was lovely,  had amazing food, and was very reasonably priced. We decided to share a meat platter, a cheese platter, and a vegetable platter which was filling and delicious, and was less than 7 euro each when we split the bill. By the time we met up with the others after lunch it was 2 pm.

We went to a beautiful church called La Basilica di Santa Anastasia. Inside there were beautiful paintings and an incredibly elaborate ceiling that was difficult to look up at but breathtaking to behold. We were also given the electronic tour information electronic device that gave a history of the painting or sculpture I was standing in front of. There was a little chapel in the back where people could go, so I went in and said a little prayer. We left a little while later and walked to the square where the statue of Dante is placed. In it there was a gelato place where I and a couple other girls decided to treat ourselves. I chose a wonderful mix of limone (lemon) and fragola (strawberry) which tasted divine. As we continued down the road and after I had finished my ice cream, we found a beautiful picture location where we paused to take some snapshots. Just off of this were various cafes so we split into two groups depending on what refreshment we wanted. I went to get an espresso to wake me up while some of the others went to get gelato.

After we had some food and drink in us, we brightened up and continued on our way. We found the Duomo di Verona and I went inside along with 3 others, Caroline, Rachel, and Maggie. Inside to the immediate right when you walk in is the small chapel room with a giant basin as the main focal point. To the left when you walk in is a hallway that could go to two different rooms. The room more straight was the area where you can look down and see the exposed foundation, but it also had an altar and some pews set up like a small church. The room more towards the back and to the left was the main Cathedral area which was ornately decorated with the most exquisite artwork, organ, and marble. The dome, which was the main focus, was off to the side in the center. It was  intricately decorated and painted with such pleasing images of angels. After about half an hour of looking around, we left to meet up with the others who were having some drinks across the street.

We decided to end our tour of Venice with the Castel Vecchio before getting dinner which is precisely what we did. We entered under the arched structure after crossing a small wooden bridge. Once across the bridge, there was a magnificent courtyard, so green and lush. After I had bought my ticket, I was told I would have to leave my backpack in a cubby, so I paid one euro (which I got back at the end) to store it in a locked cubby. The lower rooms were all sculptures, while on the second and third floors there were a lot of different paintings from the late 15th, 16, and 17th centuries. Many, if not all, of the paintings were religious in some way, either depicting the saints or depicting the Virgin Mary with Jesus (Madonna and Child). They were all really interesting to look at because of how long they have lasted over the centuries. but after a while it is difficult (for me at least) to look at the same concept displayed over and over in each painting. At last, one of the last things we did at the castle was go up to the top where we could see pretty much the entire city and where we could look out into the river below. There was also a brick build walkway that was the bridge between the multiple buildings of this castle where I looked down into the courtyard of the front entrance and was mesmerized by the completely different views.

At this point, it was around 7 pm and we were tired, hungry, and mainly just wanted to take a load off our feet. We went into one shopping store (OVS) for about 15 minutes then headed back to the Colosseum which is where we were first dropped off by the bus in the morning. There, we found a great restaurant right in front with a perfect view of the Colosseum and some reasonable prices. I believe it was called Ristorante Pizzeria Olivo, and the food there was delicious. I ordered some kind of pasta with tomato sauce and eggplant topped with a giant prawn, and it was so good. Iulia, Fidelia, and I also split a tiny bottle of wine that was about 0.375 liters, which was about 1 1/4 glasses each. When we finished our food, we walked to the bus stop and took the bus back to the train station where we then waited for about an hour. While waiting, we looked at the pictures from the day, we talked about what we had seen and done, and I read a bit of Plato’s Phaedrus for class.

The train arrived around 21:50 and by 22:00 we had departed Verona. Unfortunately, this train was a fast train and we had assigned seats in different cars so we had to split up. But, luckily for me, Iulia and Maggie were also in my car and it was pretty empty, so I abandoned my assigned seat to sit with them. It was a pretty tame ride where we joked and chatted the hour away. But, there was some commotion when someone came to check tickets because this group of people sitting a few seats away from us did not have any tickets and were escorted out of the car. After they left, I heard some raised voiced and then never saw them again. Other than that, not much else transpired. By the time we arrived back in Venice, it was about 23:15 and we knew we were not going to make the 23:30 vaporetto back to San Servolo. That meant that we would have to wait another hour for the 12:30 vaporetto, and by this this point in the night we were all exhausted. So we took the vaporetto from the train station to the San Marco stop, then transferred over to the San Zaccaria stop. The half hour ride there wasn’t too difficult because I sat outside and looked at Venice by night under the beautiful, almost orange, full moon.

We waited at the San Zaccaria stop for about 45 minutes, during which time I continued to read. Everyone was so tired that we passed the time pretty much in silence. When the vaporetto finally arrived around 12:45 am, we shuffled on and looked out into the night as we rode towards San Servolo, our home. After such a long day, I was glad to be back. But, because there are three of us sharing a room, I did not get to shower until 1:30 am and didn’t go to sleep until around 2:15 am. But even though I had class the next morning, it was all worth it to see the beautiful city of Verona.

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Ciao for now!

Venice Day 7: Calm Mornings, Ciao, & Ca’ d’Oro

Venice Day 7: Calm Mornings, Ciao, & Ca’ d’Oro

June 10, 2017 Saturday

This was a day for sleeping in late and relaxing. I stayed in bed until probably 11:15 am when the cleaning woman knocked on my door and wanted to check that the room was empty. I opened the door while still in my pajamas and half asleep, and there was an exchange between us that I think meant that she would come back later, but what I heard in my head was that she would be back in 5 minutes. So, I hurriedly threw on my new cropped white off the shoulder shirt under my blue and pink striped romper, put some white sneakers on, and hurriedly did my makeup. Then I grabbed my backpack with my homework and took the rest of my box of blueberries out of the fridge and headed to the tables outside. I sat in the shade reading Plato’s Phaedrus while sipping on my water and occasionally popping some blueberries into my mouth. Every now and then when I would look up from reading my book I got to see the green of the trees and out the window in the wall I saw the blue of the water. It was such a tranquil and beautiful way to start my day.

Around 12:45 some of my friends started to come around to the tables for lunch, so I decided to join them. We all enjoyed a lunch filled with conversation and good Italian food from the San Servolo restaurant. After lunch, I quickly ran back up to my room to grab some necessities for my purse. When I opened the door, I realized that the room had not been cleaned yet, that I must have misunderstood the woman, and that I had not needed to rush after all. But it didn’t matter since it actually got me up and going with my day. After I had grabbed my purse and some money, I met the rest of my friends at the vaporetto stop and we headed into the city. As we were walking along, we came across a crowd of people gathered around some students (I assume they were students since they were young and there was a lot of them), most likely a song and dance group, performing in the middle of the calle. They were singing a capella and harmonizing beautifully, but they were also dancing perfectly in sync to the beat. We stopped to watch them for a few minutes because it was so neat, then we continued on our way.

We had decided the day before that we wanted to go to Ca’ d’Oro, so that’s what we did first when we arrived in the city. Because we’re students, we paid a reduced price to get in which was great. We started off by going into the courtyard where there were a couple  of statues and mosaics to look at. I went over to the sign that had the history of the building and right next to it there was a little square hole in one of the walls that looked out into the street out front. I went over to look into it, with my sunglasses on, and I was startled to find a man looking back at me with a big smile who said “Ciao!” Since I had my sunglasses on, I hadn’t realized there was someone from the street looking in. The whole thing was really funny, and my friends laughed at me for some time afterwards.

Next, we went inside up the stairs to the first floor which had a few rooms of statues and paintings. All the art was very beautiful and mostly religious since it was from around the 16th century. Upstairs on the second floor there were more paintings and sculptures and bronze, but there was also a room filled with carpets and rugs. Along the walls and next to the carpets were the descriptions of each type of carpet and its origin.

After about an hour or so we left Ca’ d’Oro and walked around a bit. We found a gelato place to stop at and I got fragola (strawberry) and mango which was delicious. At this point in the day, it was around 4:45 and a couple of the girls wanted to see if there was a mass at the church in Piazza San Marco, so we walked there. It turned out that the mass was at 6:45 instead of 5:30 as we had thought. We decided that since some of us wanted to go back early and get work done while the others wanted to go to mass, we would go and grab some food then split up.

We ate at Rosso Pomodoro near Piazza San Marco, and since it was early (about 5:15ish) we got some light food. I ordered a caprese salad and a glass of prosecco while some of the others ordered salad, ravioli, and some pizza, along with some prosecco. It was really good, but at the end of the meal those of us who were going back to San Servolo had to go to catch the 6:50 vaporetto. We left our meal vouchers with the others (since this restaurant was one of only a few places that takes the meal vouchers we were given through our university course), and headed on our way.

Back at San Servolo, I decided to take a nap since I hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep the past week and I decided to use this day as my catch up day. I took a nap until about 8pm and then I did some homework before finally getting ready for bed and going to sleep around 12 am.

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Ciao for now!